Sports

Volleyball team gains ground, almost steals the show from undefeated La Conner

Top photo, senior setter Kelsie Carlton digs out a serve and sets the offense in motion in the Wolverines hard-fought loss at home Oct. 9 against undefeated La Conner. Middle photo, junior Kayla Short blasts a winner past the Braves
Top photo, senior setter Kelsie Carlton digs out a serve and sets the offense in motion in the Wolverines hard-fought loss at home Oct. 9 against undefeated La Conner. Middle photo, junior Kayla Short blasts a winner past the Braves' Lauren McClung. Bottom photo, Meaghan McCormick and Kayla Short join forces in defending against La Conner's Anna Thosten at the net.
— image credit: Scott Rasmussen

It’s easy to forgive Friday Harbor volleyball coach Travis Mager and the rest of the Wolverines for accentuating the positive despite being swept at home by La Conner last week in three straight games.

The Wolverines nearly pulled off what no other team has against the perennially playoff-bound Braves, who have yet to lose even a single game this season. Friday Harbor gave La Conner, 7-0 in league, all it could handle in two rounds and almost stole the opener.

“We’re improving with every single game,” Mager said. “If we play the way we did against Nooksack and against La Conner, we’re going to be in real good shape.”

The Wolverines (2-5 league) had the crowd on its feet and busting at the seams in Turnbull Gym after turning a sizzling start into a 17-12 advantage in the opening game.

The Braves, though clearly stunned, regrouped and battled back to tie the score at 18-18. Braves junior Abi Hedlund, who tallied four consecutive points on serve, and Julie Hulbert delivered down the stretch as La Conner notched seven of the final eight points to secure the win.

La Conner prevailed 25-19, 25-15, 25-18.

Junior Kayla Short pointed to Friday Harbor’s competitiveness against La Conner, rather than the final outcome, in measuring the improvement made by the team so far this season.

"We played our hearts out,” Short said. “It’s really amazing. That’s the closest we’ve ever been to them.”

Senior Kelsie Carlton was all smiles despite the defeat. The Wolverines have never come so close to snatching a game from La Conner or been as competitive in the past three years, and, she believes, it may signal a turnaround.

“If we can play like this against the rest of the teams we’ll do well,” Carlton said. “I’m just so proud of our team, we’ve never come this close to those guys.”

The Wolverines are well-poised for a turnaround and back-to-back battles at home this week against Orcas and Shoreline Christian should be epic. Friday Harbor’s last three meetings against the Crusaders have all gone five games, and they’ve forced the Vikings to go five in two of the last three as well.

Next: The Wolverines tackle Orcas at home Thursday, beginning at 5 p.m. in Turnbull Gym.

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